J.K. Rowling owns Harry Potter and all the rest. I have a couple of cats and my laptop.

"Drink!" crowed Alice, tilting backward into Frank's chest and pointing at Marlene.

"You cheated! I don't know how, but you did!" Marlene's face was flushed from alcohol, and she teetered into the middle of the circle to grab at a half filled cup of butterbeer. Alice had just bounced a bronze knut off the table and into the cup.

The party started shortly before Lily's arrival with loud music and dancing, but by eleven, all ten seventh year Gryffindors were dressed in pajamas and huddled near the fireplace in Marlene's parlor, laughing and playing drinking games. Music still blared from the wireless on the mantle, but the sleepy teens ignored it for the most part.

"Just because you have shoddy aim doesn't mean I cheated." Alice stood up and did a little dance, wiggling her bum as she turned in a circle on the spot. Frank, whose head was roughly level with said bum, stared openly, dazed by her movements.

Lily lifted her wand and shot a blast of cold air at his neck, but missed and hit Alice's nightdress instead. Her skirt flared out and she shrieked.

"Are we stripping now?" Sirius sat up straight and looked around with interest. "I didn't know there would be stripping."

"Gerroff!" Marlene laughed as he pawed at her shirt, pulling it away from her neck. She batted him away half-heartedly. "Perv."

"And proud of it." He grinned wolfishly and kissed her just under her left ear, admiring the red tinge that spread over her neck after he did so.

"Shocking behavior all," James slurred. He looked around the room and his eyes fell on Remus and Dorcas, who were sitting a few steps away from the group and sipping their drinks. "Well, except for Moony and Dori over there."

Remus glanced up at his friend and grinned. "Someone has to stay sober enough to make sure no one burns the house down."

"Sober-ish," Dorcas added with a laugh.

"Moony and Dori sitting in a tree," sang Peter, earning himself a lip-binding hex from Remus. He fell back onto a couch cushion and continued to hum wordlessly, apparently unphased.

"I think it's my turn," Frank said, pulling everyone's attention back to the game. "Care to give me a tip, Alice? You seem to be the only one who's managed to get anything in the cup."

Alice tipped a bottle of butterbeer into the cup until it was half full and then sat back down. "It's all in the wrist. Really, this is the sort of thing James should be grand at, with all his Chaser skills."

"A knut and a Quaffle are not the same thing," James grumbled.

"Well spotted." Sirius laughed and poked Marlene in the side, whispering loudly. "Hey, Marly, did you hear? Quaffles are no longer being accepted as legal currency."

She giggled and shoved him sideways. "I think you actually get nerdier as you get drunker. Is that possible?"

"Definitely," Remus answered. "Padfoot only pretends to be dashing and cool. If he didn't care so much about looking cool, he could be top of the class."

"You take that back," Sirius demanded in mock outrage. "Looking cool! I don't have to care about looking cool, I am cool!"

"'Course you are," Marlene said, stroking his hair soothingly. "All the cool kids make currency jokes when they get knackered."

" 's right," he muttered. He was about to lean back into Marlene when he sat straight up and looked around. "Hang on. Wasn't someone stripping?"

The shower of knuts that followed this statement barely missed the cup of butterbeer in the middle of the circle, although most of them found their target.

"You know, this is why the other houses don't think we have a sense of humor in Gryffindor," he complained, rubbing a sore spot on his forehead where an expertly thrown knut had beaned him. "Our birds take every little thing so seriously."

"Don't worry," Mary said drily, "you more than make up for us with your antics. I'm reasonably sure that the whole school knows what you and your mates find funny."

"You say that like you don't think our pranks are amusing, MacDonald." James frowned sternly, but his eyes glinted with amusement. "Tell me, what is it about self-propelling food fights that you don't find funny?"

"Treacle tart is abominably difficult to wash out of my hair, for one thing," Mary laughed. "And there was the time you managed to color change the whole house's hair scarlet and gold right before the Slytherin-Gryffindor match. My complexion was not made for scarlet!"

"Ah, fifth year," Remus sighed. "That was a good one."

"I'd always wondered what Evans would look like as a blonde, you see," James added, ducking as Lily aimed a sharp whack in his direction.

"I think we've lost Peter," Mary said suddenly, looking over to where he had fallen back. After humming to himself for a few minutes, Peter had given in to his drink-induced drowsiness and fallen asleep on the soft cushions. Once the room fell silent, they could hear soft snores whistling through his nose.

"I say, Remus, you finally figured out how to stop Wormy's snores!" Sirius laughed. "You girls wouldn't believe it, but Peter's snores literally shake the foundations of our tower every night. It's a race to see who can fall asleep first, because if you don't beat Peter to the punch, you'll be up the rest of the night."

"What do you know," James said thoughtfully. "You'd have thought we'd have come up with the lip-locker before now. We use it frequently enough."

"Should we move him to one of the bedrooms?" Mary asked.

"Mary, Mary, Mary, if you've just been waiting to have your wicked way with him, you should have said something sooner. We could have slipped something into his drink!" Sirius teased.

She flushed and looked around for a spare knut, but they had all been thrown at him already. She settled on a pillow, which he lunged forward and caught, falling over the cup of butterbeer in the process and spilling it all over the rug.

"Oh, bugger!" Marlene moaned. "Get up, you horrible boy, I have to get that cleaned up before it stains something."

The group scattered, and Dorcas and Marlene took turns using their limited knowledge of cleaning charms on the rug to no success.

"This is shite," Dorcas grumbled. "Lily, can't you—?"

"Oh, step aside," Lily laughed. "You're doing it all wrong. Scourgify."

With a single flick of her wand, the mess was gone and the rug was once again spotless.

Sirius sniffed the air appreciatively. "Smells like flowers in here. Evans, you really do have a knack for that. It's nice to know that Prongs will be in good hands after Hogwarts. Do you cook, too?"

James flinched and closed his eyes, waiting for the inevitable curse that would somehow be directed at him, even though Sirius had been the one to make the joke. Instead, all he heard was a disgruntled snort. He opened his eyes and saw Lily making her way towards the bedroom where she and the other girls had put their overnight things.

Without giving it too much thought, he followed her. Later, he would find it impossible to remember where he found the courage to trail after her into the dark. It could have been the drinking, it could have been her smile as they danced to the wireless earlier that night, or it could have simply been that she didn't curse him when someone suggested they would end up living together in domesticated bliss some day. Whatever the reason, moments later he found himself standing behind her, quite alone, in a dark bedroom.

She turned to close the door and jumped, shrieking with surprise. "Merlin, Potter, you're as quiet as a mouse! What do you want?"

He knew what she meant, but in the context of everything that had been going on between them, the question seemed utterly absurd. He couldn't help it—he started to laugh. It was quiet at first, but soon he was giggling helplessly, a high, girly laugh that usually indicated he had completely lost all control. She stared at him, nonplussed.

"Are you all right? What's wrong with you?"

With great effort, he calmed himself down, taking deep breaths as he slowly regained self control. At last, he wiped a tear from his eye and took a step closer to her.

"What do I want?"

Her eyes got wider, but she didn't move back like he expected she would. His heart started to pound, and he lifted a hand and tucked an errant red strand back behind her ear. He'd been wanting to do that for years, and it was more wonderful than he could have imagined. Once it was over, though, he wasn't quite done with touching her, so he cupped her cheek with his hand. It was soft and warm and perfect.

She blinked and licked her lips.

"What do I want," he repeated.

"That's what I asked, yes. What is it that you want?"

She inched closer to him as she said it, and then they were standing chest-to-chest, centimeters between their bodies. She leaned her face into his hand, certain that he could feel the way her heart was galloping in her chest. He just stared down at her, unabashed awe in his eyes as he took in everything from her messy curls to the old pajamas she had hijacked from her father's closet shortly before fourth year. They were a little too big, but they still managed to hug her in just the right places.

He ducked his chin and leaned closer. "I want..."

Her eyes fluttered closed and she tilted forward onto her tiptoes, feeling the warmth of his breath on her face.

And then, the feather light touch of his lips, not on hers, but on her eyelids, of all places. He kissed a trail from her right eye to her left, then down her left cheek, steadying her all the while with his hand on her right. Each touch was electrifying, and every time his lips came back for more, she felt her heart go faster. Finally, when he was about to reach her mouth, Lily steeled herself for the moment she had been hoping for for months.

But it didn't come. He stopped, pulling up and just far enough away to let her clear her head.

"I think you know what I want, Lily," he whispered. "What is it that you want?"

Without opening her eyes, without thinking about it, and certainly without weighing the consequences, she threw her arms around his neck, pulled him back down, and launched herself at him, pressing her lips against his warm mouth with abandon.

He responded immediately, sliding his hand back into her hair and gripping it so tightly that her scalp started to tingle. In response, she tugged at his shoulders, raising herself up on her toes so that she could get closer. A small, mad little voice cackled in the back of her mind, wondering aloud just how scandalized her twelve-year-old self would be at this development.

After several breathless minutes, Lily pulled away, panting and grinning. She opened her eyes for the first time and marveled at the mussed, red-faced boy in front of her. He was blinking in the dim light, dazed, mouth hanging open and glasses askew. Then his eyes cleared and he looked down at her, leveling an intense stare that made her stomach bubble with anticipation.

Carefully, gently, ever-so-slowly, he lifted his hand one more time to smooth her hair away from her face. She kept her eyes open this time, taking in the way his pupils grew in the darkness. He traced a forefinger down the side of her jaw, raising goose bumps as he went.

"Lily, I—"

He stopped as she raised her own hand and grabbed his, bringing it to her mouth for a slow, warm kiss.

"Shut up, Potter. Just for a second, okay? Just ... shut up."

One eyebrow arched up and he grinned cockily, tugging her toward him by the hand she still held. "Keep talking to me like that and you won't get any more kisses."

"What makes you think I want any more of your ruddy kisses?" She grinned confidently, but when she felt his other hand trailing up her back, she couldn't contain her shivers. In response, he ducked down to whisper in her ear. The feeling of his breath on her skin was delicious and sexy and it was all she could do not to throw her arms around him again just to keep him there.

"You're a lousy liar, you know that?"

"I'm not lying I'm—"

He pressed his lips to her neck and sucked, tracing tiny patterns in her skin with his tongue. An incomprehensible moan escaped her lips, and he laughed softly.

"Joking, only joking," she finished weakly.

As he straightened up, she couldn't resist running her fingers through his hair, mussing it further and making it stick straight up in all directions.

"Stop that!" He batted her hands away with a laugh. "My hair doesn't need more help in misbehaving."

Then it was Lily's turn to laugh helplessly, and even when he pulled her back into his arms and hugged her close, she couldn't stop her giggles.

"Did that just happen?" she marveled, catching her breath. "Did I just snog James Potter?"

"Give me some of the credit, please." He attempted to pull a serious face but failed completely, happiness radiating off of him in waves. "I believe I did participate in said snogging. In fact, I would argue that I snogged you, but we don't have to get into semantics just yet."

"Always the glory hog," she muttered.

"It was rather glorious, wasn't it?" He chuckled quietly, laughing out loud when she hit his shoulder in annoyance. "You have no idea who you're dealing with, Evans. You've created a monster."

Lily was acutely aware of his arms around her and the heat of his body pressed against her. She sighed deeply, trying to slow the beating of her heart.

"Now what?" she whispered. In front of her, James tensed.

"Now...you finally agree to go out with me for starters," he said after a moment. "I think that's only fair."

"For starters?" she laughed again. "That makes it sound like you have a list of demands."

"Oh, I do." His voice deepened and her entire body began to tingle in anticipation. "I have a whole host of demands. But we'll start with a date. And maybe you could come round my place tomorrow and have some tea with my mum?"

She jumped and looked up at him, eyes wide. "Excuse me? Tea with your mum? Before we've had a first date?"

He smiled sheepishly. "Strictly Head stuff. She was giving me a hard time about not having met you when I spend so much time with you. And my mum is really hard to say no to, so if you could just humor me this once..."

"I dunno, James. I mean we're not even really dating. Isn't that...odd?"

"We don't have to tell her anything, I promise! Although I can't guarantee she won't notice there's something going on. She's scary perceptive. I think Dad taught her Leglimency or something. Either that or she's secretly an expert at Divination. Nothing else makes sense."

Lily laughed but didn't answer, burning some time by looking around the darkened room.

"Lily, come on. Please?"

"Oi! What are you two doing in he—" Sirius came around the corner quickly, obviously not expecting what he found. Lily tried to pull away, but James kept an iron grip on her waist.

"Oh." He stopped dead, processing the sight in front of him for a minute. "Uh. Well, then."

"D'ya need something, Sirius? Because we're kind of in the middle of something here." James grinned at his friend, who looked like someone had just hit him with a Confundus curse.

"Right. Um. Carry on?"

Sirius backed slowly out of the room, hands raised, palms out, stupefied stare still in place.

Lily glanced up at James, who was watching the door with his smile still in place. "How long do you think we have before he blabs what he just saw?"

James shrugged. "He's cool. He won't even tell Marlene til I give him the okay."

"Really? That's...incredibly cool. I don't know that I could make the same guarantee for Marlene."

"Then we best get back out there before they start to talk."

She reached up and ran her fingers through his hair again, lightly tugging on the ends until he ducked down for another kiss. He groaned quietly, smiling against her mouth.

"You're making it really hard to leave this room, Evans."

"I'm sure I don't know what you mean." She let go with a little shove, grinning brilliantly. Then she strutted past him with a little shimmy, shaking her hair back and blowing a kiss over her shoulder as she left the room.


They ended up sleeping in a pile on the floor of the parlor, a tangle of arms and legs that managed to be simultaneously cramped and uncomfortable and supremely comfortable. Lily slept sandwiched between James and Dorcas, with Mary lying across her feet. She woke up warm and happy, and the first thing she saw was James' face, slack with sleep. She reached up and touched his chin, marveling at the coarse stubble scattered unevenly across his face.

His eyelids fluttered at the contact, and he yawned.

"Good morning," she whispered.

"Mmph." He opened one eye and examined her blearily. "Mm, still dreaming."

She inched closer, nuzzling his cheek lightly with her nose. He opened both eyes this time and groped around for his glasses. Once he had them securely on his face, a sleepy smile lit up his face.

"You're beautiful," he whispered. Lily rolled her eyes but kissed him anyway, quickly pulling away and looking around the room. No one else was awake, but a ray of bright sunlight cut through a crack in the heavy drapery.

She sat up straight. "What time is it?"

"Ugh, Evans, you're actually louder in the morning. I didn't think that was possible." Sirius buried his head under a pillow.

"What does it matter what time it is?" Marlene mumbled.

Lily shoved her over and struggled to sit up. "Because I have to be home by noon."

Mary sat up next, holding a wristwatch. "I hate to tell you this, but you're a bit late."

She cursed and jumped to her feet. "How late?"

"It's 12:30."

James stood up, rumpling his hair and yawning. "All right, keep your pants on, Lily. I'll get you home."

"She can't get herself home?" Remus asked quietly, stifling his own yawn.

"Well, she could but that would be ungentlemanly, don't you think?" James picked his way through the mass of his sleepy classmates. "Come on, Evans. You're late."

"Git," she muttered, but her smile betrayed her.

He beat her to the bedroom and had her bag ready for her when she got there.

"I could get used to this."

He leaned over and brushed a quick kiss on her lips, pulling her into his arms. "You better. Ready to go?"

"I'm wearing pajamas, you big bully. Turn around so I can throw on some clothes. You could do the same, you know."

"What if I don't want to turn around?" But he turned obediently, rooting around for his jeans and t-shirt. He did his best to ignore the rustling sounds. There was a good chance he'd be seeing her parents when they arrived at her house, and he didn't want to be thinking about Lily in her underwear when he did. Finally, she cleared her throat.

"I'm ready."

He turned slowly, taking in every inch of her. She was wearing the same dress she had arrived in the night before, and her hair was a mess, but she smiled sweetly. "You really are the most beautiful girl, you know that?"

She laughed and looped her arms around his neck. "You're ridiculous."

"I'm going to ignore that comment and concentrate on the memory of you kissing me like I was the last bloke on earth. Is side along okay? I don't feel like letting go."

She laughed, but before she could answer he was turning on the spot, pulling her into the strange non-space that accompanied Apparition. They landed on Lily's doorstep. She wobbled a little, but he caught her before she tipped too far.

"Nice aim, Potter."

"Why, thank you."

Still laughing, she opened the door and grabbed his hand. "We'll just tell my mum I'm going to have tea with your parents, and then—"

She stopped dead in her tracks. Petunia was sitting in the middle of the couch in the front parlor, also wearing a party dress. Her hair had fallen out of some kind of elegant updo, and there were tear tracks down her cheeks. Her blue eyes were red and swollen.

"Tuney?" Lily clutched James' hand tighter, and a sickening wave of nausea swept over her.

Her sister looked at her, then looked at the clock that sat above the mantle. "You're late."

"Tuney, what's going on?"

"Couldn't get you on the phone. Your freaks don't have phones, did you know that?"

Lily towed James forward, feeling her stomach sink with every step.

"Where's Mum? Where's Dad? Tuney, what the hell is going on? Tell me!"

"Mum's... Dad's at hospital. He's going to be okay."

"Tuney. Where's Mum?" Desperation had started leaking into her tone, and James could see that panic was not far off.

"There was an accident coming home from the party they were at last night," Petunia said dully. "Dad's going to be okay. Mum's dead."

Lily fell to her knees, and for the first time since apparating, she let go of James' hand. Her arms circled her body protectively and she started to rock. "No, that's not true. You're wrong."

Those words seemed to ignite something in Petunia. She looked straight at her sister with hatred blazing in her eyes. "I was there, all right? I talked to the doctor. I only came home because Dad sent me to...to talk to you. Because no one could get a hold of you!"

She stood up, radiating fury now. "You're never available. What was I supposed to do, owl you?"

Tears flowed down Lil's cheeks. "I think I'm going to throw up."

Petunia growled and pushed past her, grabbing her coat off the peg near the front door. "I'm leaving. I can't sit here."

She slammed the door behind her, and James stood for one second, torn between comforting Lily and following her horrible sister. The former won out.

"Stay here," he said quietly, stalking out the front door.

Petunia was half a block away, striding quickly with her arms around her stomach in a way that sharply reminded him of Lily.

"Petunia!" he shouted. She stopped in her tracks, but didn't turn around. He jogged to catch up until he was just behind her.

"At least tell me what hospital."

She turned around, and all the fury and hate was gone. In its place was sad resignation.

"St. Luke's downtown. Can I go now?"

He nodded, and she turned and walked away, slower this time, still clutching her middle. He watched her for a moment, then turned and made his way back to the house, where a sobbing Lily lay on the floor, her cheek pressed against the cold parquet.

A/N: **hides**